As the Cayman Islands prepares for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, one surprising absentee will be Lauren Hew.
Hew, 14, famously met the qualifying standard for the 50 meter backstroke at the XXIX CARIFTA Swimming Championships in April. Due to a ruling passed by the Fédération Internationale de Natation, Hew is forced to miss out on the second summer staging of the Youth Olympics in Nanjing, China on Aug. 16-28.
Hew, who recently competed at the XX Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, said her focus is simply on the upcoming swim season.
“Originally, I was going to train for the Youth Olympics but I won’t be going to that meet,” she said. “I made a qualifying time but there were A cuts and B cuts. I had a B cut in the 50m back and I was close to a B cut in the 100m back but only 200 female athletes in the world can attend that meet. I didn’t make the top 200.
“I’m getting a little break from swimming. Later on, I’ll start training again for next season.”
At the CARIFTA event in Aruba, Hew won silver in the 13-14 girls 50m back in a time of 31.23 seconds. In addition, she claimed gold in the 100m back with a time of 1:07:21, setting a new CARIFTA record in the process; she nabbed gold in the 200m back in 2:29.14 and was part of the bronze medal-winning girls 400m medley relay team.
The Cayman Islands Olympic Committee confirmed Hew’s absence and issued a statement, which read: “Lauren will not be attending the Youth Olympic Games, as she has not been selected by FINA, swimming’s governing body. She achieved the B qualifying time standard at the CARIFTA games earlier this year, however, with the large number of athletes that achieved A qualification times, this limits the number of B qualified athletes that can compete.”
With Hew out, the Olympic Committee is now sending six athletes and five team officials across four disciplines – athletics, equestrian, gymnastics and sailing. On the track, Jamal Walton and Pearl Morgan will compete in the 400m and 200m, respectively. Equestrian rider Polly Serpell jumps in the individual competition. Morgan Lloyd, the squad’s youngest member at 15 years old, tackles the individual all-around gymnastics event and sailors Florence Allan and Pablo Bertran compete in the one person dingy segment.
Almost all of the athletes are coming off major international performances. For example, Allan and Bertran were part of Cayman’s silver medal-winning team at the 16th annual Premier’s Cup regatta last month in the British Virgin Islands.
Walton figures to be the main medal hopeful after racking up a string of accolades in recent weeks. Walton won the boys 15-16 400m title at the Amateur Athletic Union Championships in Orlando, Florida, posting times of 46.97 seconds (preliminaries) and 47.36 secs (final). The St. Thomas Aquinas High School sophomore also broke Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt’s 400m record at the Central American and Caribbean Junior Championships in Morelia, Mexico. He won gold in 47.01 secs, eclipsing the old mark of 47.17 secs set by Bolt 12 years ago.
The George Town native’s health could play a role in his Nanjing performance after he suffered a left hamstring strain and pulled out of the 400m semifinals at the International Association of Athletics Federations World Junior Championships in Eugene, Oregon.
In China, local athletes will be in action from Aug. 18, with Serpell leading the charge. The opening ceremony is scheduled for 8 p.m. Beijing time (7 a.m. Cayman time) on Aug. 16 at the Nanjing Olympic Sports Center stadium. The closing ceremony is on Aug. 28.
The 2014 team is double what Cayman sent to the 2010 Singapore Games, with local athletes competing in equestrian and gymnastics for the first time. In addition, journalist Jade Webster, 22, will be in Nanjing after being selected for the Young Reporters Programme. Representing the Americas, Webster is one of 31 young people, aged 18-24, chosen by the Continental Associations of National Olympic Committees.
Cayman’s medal chances would seem to have taken a blow with Hew out. At the Commonwealth Games, she was one of only two local swimmers to advance past the preliminary heats. Hew finished seventh in the 50m back semifinals at 31.08 secs after a fifth place swim of 30.55 secs in the prelims. She was also sixth in the 100m backstroke at 1:07.34 and listed as a reserve for the semis and placed eighth in the 200m back heats at 2:27.16.
Hew said her overall Scotland experience was positive.
“I was amazed the whole time. The opening ceremony, I’ve never been to something like that before. The (athlete) village was pretty awesome, I got to see people from all over the world. I think it’s the most amazing experience I’ve ever had.”